Conservation Overview

Removing the cover
Removing the cover
Removing the stubs
Removing the stubs

Time and use caused Jefferson's volume to become so fragile that the Museum could no longer make it available to researchers or to the public. Because the adhesive Jefferson used to glue the clippings caused the paper to become stiff and inflexible, the pages cracked and tore as the book's equally inflexible binding was opened. The goal of the conservation project was to physically and chemically stabilize the book and make it accessible once again.

Jefferson's book presented complex conservation problems. It contains twelve different types of paper, six printing inks, four manuscript inks, two adhesives, linen thread, silk thread, and goatskin leather. A team of conservators conducted materials analysis, assessed the benefit versus risk of potential treatment options, and established documentation of the materials' current condition for future comparison.

To repair the artifact, the cover was removed intact. Jefferson's pages were physically stabilized with conservation repair tissue and reversible adhesives. High-resolution digital images were captured to ensure public access. The pages were rebound in the historic cover in a manner sympathetic to the original, but with slight modifications to prevent the same damage from recurring.

See the conservation process step-by-step

News

Opening in November Press Release

The Thomas Jefferson Bible goes on exhibit November 11, 2011 at the Albert H. Small Documents Gallery in the National Museum of American History

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Conservation Blog Post: Disbinding Blog Post

It is difficult to describe how one faces the prospect of taking apart a national treasure. Of course, in order to reach the level of craftsmanship required, there are years of education and practice required, but that doesn't begin to fully describe it.

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History

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson
"I am of a sect by myself, as far
as I know." — Thomas Jefferson, 1819

Conservation

Separating pages
Removing the stubs
Resewing

Purchase a Copy

The Jefferson Bible, Smithsonian Edition, is a full-color facsimile created from high-resolution digital photographs of recently conserved and rebound pages.

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